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The New Mom’s Guide to Still Eating Healthy

Quick and easy meals when youre too tired to cook

We all get worn out sometimes, and after a busy day or week (or month!) there are occasions when I’m just. too. tired. to cook.

Whether your fatigue comes from parenting, pregnancy, or a busy work or school schedule, we all need some quick meals in our repertoire that don’t take much effort to get on the table.

Ideally, these quick and easy meals are also healthy and nourishing. Resorting to frozen pizza or TV dinners is not the answer if healthy is your goal.

What do you do when the fatigue hits and you’re just too tired to cook?

Really, the answer to that question is all about being prepared – I know I’m going to be tired, so I should be prepared for it ahead of time – even if you don’t have much time or energy to prepare, arming yourself with some tips and tricks and planning ahead a bit will give you a better chance of getting something healthy on the table in time for dinner.

Preparing for Baby’s Arrival With Quick & Easy Dinners

This post is definitely specific to being prepared for those of you who’s fatigue or lack of time comes from being pregnant or having a newborn, but I’m sure everyone could benefit from having a casserole in the freezer for those days when you just can’t muster up enough energy to do even a lick of work in the kitchen, or for when your toddler has had you busy all day and you realize too late that it’s dinner time already.

Your freezer is your friend. And your friends? Even better than your freezer. Winking smile

I’m been blessed with an amazing group of mommy friends, some from my mothers’ Bible study, some are the moms I know because our kids are the same age, and thanks to them we had meals 3 days a week for two months after Leah was born. Awesome.

The community here at KS got together to create The Busy Mom’s Guide to Getting Real Food on the Dinner Table. This is a different kind of help than the friends who can stock your freezer for you, but there are some gems of advice in there that will help make a healthy dinner happen.

When you want to eat real food, it’s a little trickier to accept meals from friends who might not share the same food philosophies as you.

When I was pregnant with John, I struggled with figuring out how to be polite about our real food lifestyle. I had a feeling people would be intimidated bringing me food, and I felt badly about that. I know we had a lot of pasta and white flour dishes brought to us after Leah was born (delicious, but hubs gained some weight and triglycerides because of it). It’s tricky to ask people to cook differently when they’re doing you a favor, you know?

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If you have a formal food sensitivity or allergy in the family, that might actually make things easier, because then you could say, “we have to eat this way, and here’s how you can do it,” rather than, “would you please only send healthy foods according to my new nutritional philosophy?”

How to approach what types of food you ask for might be something you’ll need to figure out how to handle for your own family and food preferences. For now, I think that stockpiling foods you know you want to have on hand when baby is born it a good place to start.

5 Foods To Have On Hand for After Baby is Born

There are two goals here: (1) food I can prepare before baby is born that will wait in the freezer for after baby comes, and (2) food I can prepare while baby is napping that can be eaten without any preparation when baby is screaming.

1. Casseroles

Sausage Zucchini Bake Casserole

Anything you can make double and freeze during the months leading up to baby’s arrival. Some options from the archives:

2. Soups

Tuscan Bean Soup simplest meal ever

Thaw some frozen chicken stock, slice a few carrots and celery, toss in a bag of frozen, shredded chicken (from making the stock), and, perhaps with rice that you mustered up the energy to soak the night before with this method, you’ve made homemade soup. Done. Ship it.

I also feel like this Tuscan Bean Soup with bagged organic spinach is a quick and easy option, since you’ll only have to cut up one onion and a couple cloves of garlic.

I usually freeze a jar or two of soup at the end of the meal, too, making another easy dinner later. I probably have five different soups in my freezer right now, frozen in glass jars. I’m so thankful they’re there when I have a crazy day and just don’t feel like cooking. Soup and salad is a mainstay around here.

My tip? Make huge batches of soup and always freeze a meal-sized portion from the leftovers. You can browse my many soup recipes here; I make soup at least once a week, so there are a lot of them!

3. Potato Salad

Easy Homemade Potato Salad Without a Recipe

I just love potato salad, so this might be a very personal answer. Although it takes a long time to cut up all the parts, the initial steps are in short bursts that can be done during nap time or anytime you have a few moments to spare:

  1. bake potatoes
  2. hard-boil eggs
  3. peel eggs

Then there’s all that cutting. I’m hoping my kids remain in an “I like to help in the kitchen” mood, because cutting the eggs and cooked potatoes up is a great task with which to involve the kids, and then I can spend some QT with them while new baby is sleeping or in a sling.

Once potato salad is made (and I always make a humongous bowl of it, in case you didn’t guess), I love the ease of it.

Scoop. Eat.

That’s the kind of food I need when baby gives me about a two-second notice before it’s time to “NURSE. NOW.” It’s got a few food groups in there, has the eggs to be super nourishing, and I love it.

4. Power Bars, Granola Bars, & Nuts

Power Bars homemade Larabars with dried fruit and nuts

For the one-second head start times…I’ll want some shelf stable food sitting in the “nursing nest.” Make a batch of granola bars and freeze them a month or so before baby comes, and the power bars (pictured above from Healthy Snacks to Go) last a few weeks as well, so you can plan ahead for when you’ll need them.

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With over a dozen different “bar” recipes alone, including many that are grain-free and contain zero refined sugar, I guarantee you’ll find a new family favorite in Healthy Snacks to Go.

5. Foods Husbands Can Make

Spousal support is such an essential part of having a baby, at least in my household. I have a feeling my husband will be doing a lot of grilling, and he can make several recipes in our Instant Pot. I bet baked potatoes will be a big feature in the rotation, as my chef’s knife intimidates him and his left-handed poor cutting skills.

If you have older kids, we have breakfasts kids can make and kids dinner ideas, too!

If you have an Instant Pot, or are thinking about getting one, check out my list of Instant Pot meals even my husband can make.

10 Instant Pot Recipes even my Husband Can Make

To plan ahead for this awesome and important assistance, I need to make sure I have plenty of ground beef and chicken breasts on hand. Stocking up will be well worth it!

Be Creative with Your Meal Prep Times

These little tricks can be revelational in a season of life with a brand new baby, especially if you have older children in the mix as well.

When you have young children, you can’t count on the “power hour” starting after 4:00 to do all the dinner prep. There was a stage in our family where at 4:00 every day I had a 6-year-old who needed some attention, a 3-year-old who might be crabby if she didn’t nap, and a newborn who didn’t even know what “schedule” meant. Heck, he didn’t know what “night” and “day” meant yet.

I had to make dinner (and all the other make-from-scratch foods we eat) when I had two hands. For me, this meant I might do some prep in the morning when the baby was napping. I would often have a cooking goal that the preschooler and I could work on together, and I knew we’d get to it sometime during one morning or the next. We’d make things like:

The trick was to make sure it was something that wouldn’t stress me out to make slowly, with a child helper, AND to be flexible enough that if it didn’t get done, dinner didn’t self-destruct.

I could get a bit more done, sometimes, when my little helper was in rest-time or nap-time, depending on her mood. I usually liked to have a “kid-less” goal here:

Here’s the interesting part – I had to figure out what could be stopped and started at random in case of “baby wake up” syndrome.

You know, when baby wakes up and needs to nurse NOW.

Katie Kimball chopping veggies with a baby in a ring sling

Sometimes you can wear the baby in a Moby Wrap or sling, but if they’ve just awakened…you know what they want!

I would often leave vegetables half-chopped on the cutting board, meat browned in the pot and waiting half an hour for the rest, and even soups half made on the stove. They survived. Most things can be turned off even when you have to run to pick up a school-aged child from school, then resumed when you get back.

In a weird stage of life when you need some alternative cooking strategies, think your recipe through and make sure it doesn’t have any parts that need to happen “right now” and can’t be put on pause. It’s “DVR cooking” where you can pause real life!

For those who aren’t glued to their rocking chair with a little nursling from 8 p.m. to midnight every evening, you might be able to rely on the wondrous time after the children go to bed. You’ll want to think about meals that have prep to do 24 hours in advance, or even early in the morning.

Think: When do I have a minute to help dinner happen?

You don’t have to make dinner right before dinnertime.

You just have to plan it in.

What foods do you like to have on hand for the post-baby-birth days? What does your husband handle?

There are more quick meal ideas in this post: What To Eat When You’re Too Busy To Think

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

18 thoughts on “The New Mom’s Guide to Still Eating Healthy”

  1. Pingback: Homemade Baking Powder Recipe | Make Your Own Baking Powder

  2. Now that the weather is nice, you can grill quite a bit of extras. Grilling 12 chicken breasts isn’t really that much harder than 4, though much harder on the budget. Slice and/or dice when cool and freeze. Then, they go into chicken salad, chicken and rice, etc. Or poach a big bunch of breasts or thighs in your crockpot and do the same.

    Make extras of nearly everything – muffins, pancakes, waffles, mini quiches made in muffin tins, cut up fruit for smoothies, etc. Freeze them. I have teenagers so the hardest part is having things stay in the freezer.

  3. A helpful tip I learned from a friend about freezing casseroles or lasagna without tying up all your pans: Line your pan in foil first, then after it freezes, lift it out of the pan. I prefer to peel the foil off, wrap the casserole in plastic and put it back in the freezer. To bake remove the plastic and drop it back into the same pan while it is still frozen.

  4. May I suggest that you ensourage one friend in each group to pass around some of the recipies that you are currently eating so they know what you would like…like a gift registry except food…..some of us like to know exactly what a person wants! or how about asking for prepared organic veggies or boiled eggs or a fresh cut up fruit salad.

  5. Great post! Just my two cents about the topic of people offering to bring meals…….Based on what I remember reading here, it sounds like at least one of your children does have some serious digestive issues associated with gluten. So even if it’s not official Celiac’s, I would just ask that people make the meals gluten free, and let them know that your one child does have pretty significant digestive issues with it. You could tell them sometimes he does end up eating gluten despite his issues (so they know they may see him consume it in the future), but that to avoid the agony, you try to keep meals gluten free. I think most people would be willing to at least work with one stipulation.

    Personally, I wouldn’t ask them to make a meal from your book, even if you give it to them for free. Some people might not take that the right way. Better to be safe and not offend anyone.

    Then I would just see what they come up with, and consume it if you can. I know that makes it sound like I am out of touch with how insanely unhealthy some people’s meals are…..but I guess I figure you could just be hopefully optimistic, and if it looks really “not appropriate” for your family, you can just dump it out or serve it to a neighbor-friend, explaining that it’s not something your family prefers. Maybe taste it first so you can comment on whether you liked it.

  6. Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama

    I think you are incapable of being brief. 🙂 LOL, but I am too.

    CROCKPOT. I am using mine more this week. I have a giant pot of beef stock on the stove right now (almost done), and a beef roast thawing in the fridge. It will be going in the crockpot with some stock soon. Then I can just freeze the cooked meat. I am planning to do a bunch of this.

    Pantry — I’m planning to mix spices in advance, for tacos or fish. If the spices are mixed, my husband can cook, since “spicing it” is his biggest issue. (According to him!) Depending on how we’re doing with grains — right now, off again — I may do rice mixes in the pantry too, with dehydrated veggies added.

    I’m also buying bulk nuts, almond flour, and dried fruits this week, to last a couple months…probably do another order before baby comes. I may do “mixes” there too, with almond flour, so my husband could add egg and milk and bake (or I could, cooking’s easy enough when most of it’s together already).

    I’m kind of at a loss with what else to do but I do have some “real food” friends who may bring me meals…since they cook that way anyway…very excited! lol.

    1. Kate,
      LOL – I knew someone would call me on that! I kept thinking that this should just be 2 posts, 5 things and 5 things, but I don’t know when I’d fit it in! So much to say, so few days in a week. 😉

      Great point with the crockpot! 🙂 Katie

  7. With my third, I did a lot of the same things you suggested. I made two weeks worth of frozen meals by doubling meals we were eating anyway. Then I had another week’s worth of “some assembly required” meals–chili, stir fry etc. that was just a matter of throwing together ingredients on hand that my hubby could easily manage. He’s a very good recipe-follower. 🙂

    I did accept offers from friends for meals, but we tried to intermix them with meals we were used to eating. At the time we didn’t have any sensitivities in the family. I’m not sure exactly what I’ll do next time. Ironically, we didn’t get as many offers for meals this time around, probably because there’s more of us to cook for! 🙂

  8. Adrienne @ Whole New Mom

    Hey Katie,

    I loved this post. I just came back to check it out and realized that I had completely missed the “description” part of the link up. So…I resubmitted.

    Good plan to take your own food to the hospital. I can’t imagine trying to sustain oneself on that stuff. 🙂

  9. Katie @ Wellness Mama

    Thanks for the reminder that I need to get on the ball preparing food before baby comes (only 2 weeks until I’m considered “full term”!!)

    Another fast meal idea that I defer to a lot is a quick stir fry. My wok pan with a little coconut oil or butter can turn meat, veggies and eggs into a stir fry in 10 minutes. Especially during garden season with squash, bok choy, etc… this is an easy idea. Since we are totally grain free, this is also easier to adapt than casseroles.

    p.s. I love your soup recipes! Prayers for you for a healthy rest of pregnancy and an easy delivery!

  10. Pingback: The Cheapskate Cook » 7 Frugal Weekend Meals

  11. Thank you so much for these tips! I’ll be coming back to this post lots of times in the next 5 months before baby #2 comes!!

  12. Thanks for the tips! I, too, am in the same boat when it comes to wondering what to do when people offer me meals when our new baby arrives (due Sep 4). Hmmm… I’ve been thinking of asking if they’d just come over and cook rather than bring food.

  13. Danielle @ HetzelKitchen

    I have a question about the casseroles. Do you bake them and then freeze them, or do you freeze it in ingredient form and then pull it out to bake it? I actually have a free weekend coming up (doesn’t happen very often), so I am hoping to do a lot of cooking in prep for the next few weeks.

    1. Danielle,
      Instructions should be with the recipes, but basically I assemble them (so some parts, like meat, are cooked) and then freeze. Thaw and bake as normally, sometimes needing a little extra time b/c they’re cold.
      🙂 Katie

    2. Danielle @ HetzelKitchen

      Do you think I could put the chicken and biscuit recipe into two smaller pans if I don’t have enough big ones?

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